By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Two former Scotiabank (Bahamas) employees were yesterday slammed for “an appalling breach of trust” in stealing more than $1.29 million from the bank, as their convictions were upheld.
Court of Appeal president, Justice Anita Allen, dismissed the appeals by Tremmelle Taylor and Natasha Evans against their convictions for stealing by reason of employment, although she cut the prison terms for both to eight years.
Taylor and Evans, together with a third former employee at Scotiabank’s Nicholls Town branch in North Andros, devised a scheme that exploited the $400,000 maximum cash limit imposed on that location.
Whenever the combined funds in the branch’s tills, Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) and treasury exceeded that limit, the excess cash had to be physically sent to Scotiabank (Bahamas) cash processing unit (CPU) in Nassau.
Taylor and Evans, the first as bulk teller and the second as its assistant manager of operations and service (AMOS), were the branch’s cash custodians.
They had to place its excess cash in a tamper proof bag for transportation via armoured car, and write the sum being sent to Nassau on the bag.
Both Taylor and Evans thus had access to the missing cash, and Justice Allen, in yesterday’s judgment, wrote: “That package was then turned over to the armoured car couriers for transport to the bank’s Operating Exchange Centre (OEC), accompanied by a manifest with the relevant information contained on it.
“However, on the occasions alleged, when the packages arrived at the OEC and were opened, the amount contained in the package was found to be less than that taken from [the branch’s] treasury and, in all cases, the amount noted on the manifest differed from what was taken from the treasury and the amount actually contained in the bag.”
Scotiabank’s records, including signatures, initials and teller identifications, were “unique” to Taylor and Evans and tied them to the scheme.
Taylor also confessed his involvement to Scotiabank supervisors orally and in writing, and was found to have deposited funds to an account without either receiving the necessary cash or debiting another, legitimate account.
On 10 occasions between April 11, 2008, and July 1, 2008, sums ranging in magnitude from $400,000 and $313,400 to $500 were stolen before the thefts were detected.
A third Scotiabank (Bahamas) employee, Byron Roberts, a former personal banking officer in charge of retail loans at the Nicholls Town branch, pleaded guilty to his involvement in the scheme during the trial.
Evidence from Elaine Cleare, a Scotiabank (Bahamas) officer, detailed how the missing $1.29 million had been used by the accused to purchase luxury goods - such as boats and trucks - and home repairs.
“The first appellant [Taylor] allegedly admitted giving Roberts some $250,000 to $300,000 from Scotiabank’s money to complete his home, to buy a boat and vehicle, and to pay medical bills and personal expensed,” Justice Allen recorded.
However, Roberts allegedly only admitted to receiving $30,000 to $40,000 from Taylor, while an additional $15,000 was transferred to another person’s account to finance a truck purchase.
At the original Supreme Court trial, Taylor argued that as a teller he was a junior employee who simply did what his supervisors told him, and he had no desire for personal gain.
Evans, meanwhile, sought to blame “negligence” by the Nicholls Town branch manager, her co-worker, for the disappearance of the $1,29 million.
Aided by her attorneys, Murrio Ducille and Crystal Rolle, she argued that Scotiabank and the Attorney General’s Office had failed to prove the case against her, and there was no evidence that she had stolen the money.
She added that there were no eye witnesses or video evidence showing she had taken the money, nor did her bank accounts contain excess cash.
“The second appellant’s case was pitched through cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses that she was not seen removing any money; there was nothing captured on any of the cameras at the branch; and that the money was missing because of the negligence of the branch’s manager,” Justice Allen said of Evans’s defence.
“Meanwhile, the first appellant’s case was that he acted under duress of his senior officer; that he was an island boy and was the scapegoat for the stolen money; that he was poor and still lived with his mother, and could not have stolen the money.”
Before the Court of Appeal, both Evans and Taylor argued that their trial had been prejudiced by Roberts’s guilty plea, and that a new trial before a new jury should have been ordered by the judge.
Justice Allen and her fellow appeal judges, though, rejected this on the grounds that Roberts’s offences were different from theirs.
She ruled that the evidence showed his involvement was “limited to receiving stolen funds from [Taylor] and was not a part of the scheme of stealing the monies...
“There was no inference that could have been made by a jury that Byron Roberts could not possibly be guilty unless the appellants were also guilty,” Justice Allen found, dismissing the claim of prejudice.
She also threw out Taylor’s argument that his purported oral and written confessions were inadmissible, as he had not been cautioned and his constitutional right to consult an attorney had been breached.
However, Justice Allen said the Evidence Act did not require the prosecution to prove a confession was admissible, unless the defence challenges it or the court required proof itself.
She pointed out that the confession admissions were neither challenged by Taylor’s attorney nor the judge, and there was nothing to indicate that his right to a fair trial had been impacted.
Taylor also challenged whether computer records generated by Scotiabank’s Interactive Teller Platform (ITP), which played a key role in his conviction, should have been admitted as evidence.
Justice Allen found that evidence from Scotiabank’s Ms Cleare and Kermit Forbes, the bank’s senior support system manager, showed the computer systems were working and the relevant records properly admitted.
She also rejected Evans’s arguments that the trial judge intervened in the case to the extent she became “an advocate”, and that the summing up unfairly put the defence’s case to the jury.
Justice Allen found that Taylor’s claim he was a “scapegoat”, and Evans’s allegation that it was the branch manager’s negligence that caused the $1.29 million to go missing, were “in conflict with clearly established facts pointing to a fraudulent scheme by the appellants”.
But, while finding that the 10-year and 15-year prison terms handed to Taylor and Evans, respectively, were appropriate, the Court of Appeal president found they should run “concurrently” and reduced them to eight years each.
“As to the severity of the sentences, they appropriately reflect the seriousness of the actions of the appellants in stealing from their employers, cumulatively, over $1 million, which was an appalling breach of trust on the part of senior officers of the bank,” Justice Allen said.
“I believe that it also balances against the mitigating circumstances such as their youth and good character.”